hot dog


Greenwich Village Fair -Hot Dogs - June 1917

Greenwich Village Fair – “Hot Dogs” – June 1917
photograph: Library of Congress




In US slang, the noun dog has been used to denote sausage meat and a sausage since the late 19th century. It is first recorded in Frank Leslie’s Comic Almanac for the year 1873, published in New York:

A Demented Old Idiot.—A certain organist in this city went into a music store one day, and when one of the salesmen appeared, the following conversation ensued:
– Organist: “I want to get Martini’s Ecole d’Orgue.”

– Salesman: “You must take me for a fool, don’t you? This is no sausage-shop. This is a music-store. What do you suppose we know about Martini’s cold dog, or his hot dog, or his lukewarm dog, or any other dog belonging to any other man?”

The Bearings: The Cycling Authority of America of 5th February 1892 reported that, in the city of Chicago

The Cook County Wheelmen gave a German stag last Saturday night. [...] For supper abundant quantities of sauerkraut and boiled dog were served.

The term hot dog therefore originally referred to sausage served hot. The sausage was probably so named because it was popularly believed to contain dog meat; Frank Leslie’s Comic Almanac for the year 1872 has the following:

A Philadelphia sausage-manufacturer gives the following recipe for making Bologna-sausage: Take an eel’s skin and stuff it with ground cat or dog; season it with Scotch snuff and persimmon oil; lay it on a hog-pen to dry, and then hang it in a grocery-store for three months for the flies to give it the trademarks.

The first known mention of hot dog in the sense of a frankfurter or wiener served hot in a long roll split lengthways is in Paterson Daily Press (New Jersey) of 31st December 1892. The author of the article titled On The Flashing Steel: Thousands Were Skating by Moonlight Last Night described this novelty:

A new adjunct to the sport is the Wiener wurst man with his kettle of steaming hot sausages and rolls. These he retails at a nickel, and he is a very popular individual with the throng, for the sport soon creates an aching void that nothing but substantials will fill, and somehow or other a frankfurter and a roll seem to go right to the spot where the void is felt the most. The small boy has got on such familiar terms with this sort of lunch that he now refers to it as “hot dog.” “Hey, Mister, give me a hot dog quick,” was the startling order that a rosy-cheeked gamin hurled at the man as a Press reporter stood close by last night. The “hot dog” was quickly inserted in a gash in a roll, a dash of mustard also splashed on to the “dog” with a piece of flat whittled stick, and the order was fulfilled. The gamin had hardly dropped a nickel into the man’s hand before he was skimming off to join his companions. This proceeding was repeated time and again, and the “hot dog” man must be getting rich.

The hot dog is also denoted by the noun use of the adjective red-hot, as its first attestation shows. Tombstone Epitaph (Arizona) of 31st May 1890 published Chicago’s Night Cooks: Queer Characters Who Furnish Food for Street Prowlers, which contains the following:

Acting on the facts given him, a Chicago News reporter selected Detective Morgan Thomas, of the Harrison street station, and at eleven o’clock started out to explore this paradise of itinerant cooks and restaurants on wheels.
“This class is the most common,” said the detective. “See, he sells hash, bread and Frankfort sausage, red-hot.”
“Vill de shentlemens haf some red-hots und brod?” asked the cook, as he placed his copper kettle on the curb. In a twinkling the table was set up. His wares were good. Hot, home-made hash, with good bread and butter, made excellent sandwiches for a hungry rounder or policeman. The red-hots were generally cut in two longitudinally and smothered in mustard. The merchant willingly told how he made his living.
“You see, frents, I sleeps me in de day-time, ’cause de beeblers what vants mine stock dey be sleepin, too. Mine woman, she cooks de hash efery afternoon und I cook de red-hots vile I carries dem. Lots of fellows make money mit dis business. See, in dis part I keeps de hash, and here are de red-hots. Under is de lamp what keeps de blace hot. In dis box I carries the brod and mustard. I shust valk me round, und de peoples what is hungry dey buys. Dey be beoples vhat only work aroun’ nights. Some be tieves, some gamblers, some policemen and odder ting. Oh yes, I make more money als vorkin’ in a restaurant.”

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